Sake lovers, rejoice!
East Japan Railway Company is offering passengers a chance to sip the finest fermented rice wine while aboard its Shu*Kura train. The immersive (and perhaps intoxicating) experience comprises a daylong sightseeing tour through a region known as the “snow country” and a curated tasting of top-notch sakes. All the tipples are locally produced in Niigata Prefecture, which is known for harvesting the most amount of rice in all of Japan.
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During the three-hour expedition, Shu*Kura will take travelers across the area’s coastal and mountainous landscapes. Depending on the time of year, the scenery could be covered by blankets of snow or verdant vegetation. Throughout the trip, the pours of preeminent sake will be accompanied by local delicacies and live music performances.
Altogether, Shu*Kura has three railcars that have been converted from KiHa 40 and 48 diesel series cars, as reported by Travel and Leisure. The first is outfitted with reclining seats and picture windows that provide a prime view of the rugged coastal cliffs, rice fields and hot springs. There’s also a small event space for concerts and other functions.
The third car is equipped with dining tables and offers even more vistas. Smack dab in the middle is where you’ll find the bar, and probably the majority of the passengers on board. Attendants will also be on hand to share their knowledge about each brew. Guests have the option of purchasing whole bottles to either sip and savor during the duration of the trip or they can take them home. Sample tasting flights are also available.
The train runs on weekends only during spring and fall. It makes one round-trip ride per day and has three different routes that rotate weekly. The routes, known as Koshino Shu*Kura, Yuzawa Shu*Kura and Ryuto Shu*Kuram, run between Joetsu Myoko and Tōkamachi, Echigo Yuzawa or Niigata city, respectively.
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